Davis King could sense the stares and whispers as he followed his tour guide around Hammond. He asked questions about the classes and what the students were like, but he never talked about himself despite knowing he was being talked about.
King was interested in transferring to Hammond from Westwood for his senior season, and the curious looks on his first visit didn’t deter him.
It just comes with the territory when your grandfather is USC coach Steve Spurrier.
“It’s kind of like, are there expectations or are there not?” King said. “Whatever you do, people will say, ‘Steve Spurrier’s grandson did this.’ It’s almost like you don’t want to be a letdown, but you want to be yourself.”
Hammond has let King do that. He embraces the culture there of getting good grades, admits he’s not the Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback his grandfather was and is sure he doesn’t want to follow the family path of becoming a coach.
But when it comes to making decisions for what comes after Hammond, balancing what King thinks is practical with what Spurrier wants his grandson to strive for can be complicated.
“Hopefully he can have some good games and get an offer,” Spurrier said. “If not, then maybe he can walk on somewhere.”
LEARNING THE GAME
What Skyhawks wide receiver Garrett Ayers remembers most from giving King the tour of Hammond is something that never happened. Ayers had heard King was Spurrier’s grandson, but King never mentioned him any more than any other teenager would talk about his grandfather.
“I have a lot of respect for the way he’s handled it,” Ayers said. “He is Steve Spurrier’s grandson, but when I toured him around, he didn’t talk about it. He didn’t bring it up, and he didn’t even talk about Carolina football. I think he wants to be known as more than that. He doesn’t want to ride on the coattail of coach Spurrier.”
But being around the football-loving Spurrier clan shaped King. Hammond coach Erik Kimrey said King far surpasses most high school quarterbacks when it comes to knowledge of the game. Though Spurrier said he never talked to King about the particulars of football, King learned on his own through attending USC practices and football camps, watching football with his family on weekends and listening to them talk about it.
He sometimes would read up on the ins-and-outs of football online and watch YouTube videos so he could better follow along with his grandfather and uncle, USC wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr.
“I was playing the NCAA video game against him, and he picked a team that he knew was similar to our offense,” Ayers said. “Coach Kimrey will say one thing, and Davis will say, ‘Well, I was thinking this,’ and then explain why. A lot of people get by on just athleticism, but he thinks through and understands the game.”
King remembers when he didn’t even know how to put football pads on. He was 15 minutes late to his first contact football practice in seventh grade because none of the other players stayed behind in the locker room to help him figure out which pads went where.
Now King picks the brain of the Skyhawks’ defensive coordinator, asking him why he decided to go with one defensive formation over another or make a certain adjustment to an offense.
His conversations with Kimrey typically transcend football. The son of Bill Kimrey, the longtime Dutch Fork football coach and now a coach at Calhoun County, Erik Kimrey can relate to King about outside expectations because of a family name.
“Maybe people assume that you only start because your dad is the coach or because your grandpa is a head coach at a college,” King said. “It’s tough to earn what’s yours for yourself without people not thinking the same.”
UNDECIDED ON HIS FUTURE
Though King loves football as much as anyone in the family, he doesn’t want to commit to it for life like his grandfather and uncle have.
He wanted to transfer from Westwood because he didn’t feel like he was being academically challenged. At Hammond, he said he didn’t feel like a nerd for wanting to do his homework; he felt like everyone else.
“I remember when he was in middle school and he said he was bored and asked me if I would homeschool him,” said his mother and Spurrier’s daughter, Lisa King. “I said, ‘No, that’s not an option.’ I think being in a more challenging environment has always been something he desired.”
Though King played quarterback for Westwood last season, he knew there was no guarantee he’d get to do the same at Hammond. Trying to earn respect and trust from teammates as the new guy at quarterback wasn’t easy.
King found himself thinking through everything he wanted to say before he said it, worried he’d be misunderstood because no one knew him very well. He wanted to strike a balance of letting the team take its time in accepting him while also trying to take an interest in everyone and be engaging.
“Coming into a new school and playing your first season as a senior was going to be a transition,” Kimrey said. “Respect had to be earned, and it wasn’t just going to be awarded to him.”
Spurrier went to King’s first game at Hammond in which he threw for four touchdowns in a 49-23 win against Hilton Head Christian. Things have been up-and-down for King since, as he’s split time at quarterback with Nick Garrett. He was 58-of-109 for 907 yards, with five touchdowns and four interceptions entering Hammond’s win against Porter Gaud this past Friday.
King is realistic about playing football in college. Though he’s 6-foot-5, he knows many Division I college teams are favoring of mobile quarterbacks.
The way King sees it, he has a choice between two good options: He can hope for a college offer and playing time at a Football Championship Series school or a Division II program, or he could walk on as a quarterback at an ACC or SEC school.
Either way, his future likely is his brain, not his arm.
The second option doesn’t seem so bad for King because he’d get to be part of the team, learn the offense and be a signal-caller while getting an education. He calls it the “Seth Strickland role” in the most admirable way, referring to the former USC backup quarterback.
King already knows the instability of coaching isn’t what he wants for his future family, but as he gets closer to deciding what he wants for next season, he’s relying on the advice of his grandfather.
“He says I have to shoot higher than that,” King says of his conversations with Spurrier about the future. “He says I have to set my goals above what I think they should be.”